Tourism is generally focused on the coastal areas of Goa, with decreased tourist activity inland. In 2004 there were more than two million tourists reported to have visited Goa, 400,000 of whom were from abroad.
Goa has two main tourist seasons: winter and summer. In the winter time, tourists from abroad (mainly Europe) come to Goa to enjoy the splendid climate. In the summertime (which, in Goa, is the rainy season), tourists from across India come to spend the holidays.
With the rule of the Portuguese for over 450 years and the consequential influence of Portuguese culture, Goa presents a somewhat different picture to the foreign visitor than other parts of the country. The state of Goa is famous for its excellent beaches, churches, and temples. The Bom Jesus cathedral, Fort Aguada and a new a wax museum on Indian history, culture and heritage in Old Goa are other tourism destinations.
Historic sites and Neighbourhoods
Goa has two World Heritage Sites: the Bom Jesus Basilica and a few designated convents. The Basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, regarded by many Catholics as the patron saint of Goa (the patron of the Archdiocese of Goa is actually the Blessed Joseph Vaz). Once every twelve years, the body is taken down for veneration and for public viewing. The last such event was conducted in 2004. The Velhas Conquistas regions are also known for its Goa-Portuguese style architecture. There are many forts in Goa such as Tiracol, Chapora, Corjuem, Aguada, Gaspar Dias and Cabo de Rama.
In many parts of Goa, mansions constructed in the Indo-Portuguese style architecture still stand, though in some villages, most of them are in a dilapidated condition. Fontainhas in Panaji has been declared a cultural quarter, showcasing the life, architecture and culture of Goa. Some influences from the Portuguese era are visible in some of Goa’s temples, notably the Mangueshi Temple and the Mahalasa Temple, although after 1961, many of these were demolished and reconstructed in the indigenous Indian style.
Museums and Science Center
Goa also has a few museums, the two important ones being Goa State Museum and the Naval Aviation Museum. The Aviation museum is the only one of its kind in the whole of India. Also, a place not well known to tourists is the Goa Science Center, which is located in Panjim. The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) is also located in Goa,at Dona Paula.
Churches in Goa, across the Goan countryside, the white washed facade of the village churches in Goa is a well-known landmark amidst the greenery of coconut plantations and paddy fields. The Churches in Goar have magnificent edifices and are largely a legacy of 450 years of Portuguese colonization.
Most of these churches in Goa were built by European monastic orders, such as the Theatines Church in Goa, Augustines Church in Goa, Franciscans and Jesuits Church in Goa, in the Renaissance, Baroque, Iberian and the lesser-known Manueline architectural styles.
Both in inspiration and design, churches in Goa are the spiritual centers of the village or town they stand in and play an important role in Goa, Social, cultural and religious life. Most if the Churches in Goa are centuries old, but still function even today. Many of these churches are also protected heritage sites and house exquisite works of Christian art in Goa.
Every church in Goa celebrates a feast dedicated to its patron saint once a year. These village feasts are celebrated by colorfully dressed villagers with a festive mass in church, a procession of the saint, music by the village band and foot that is an epicureans delight in Goa.
The most famous churches in Goa are at Old Goa church, a UNESCO designated World Heritage site near Panaji. It has the Se Cathedral convent of Santa Monica and the Bom Jesus Basilica, which houses the holy relics of St Francis Xavier, the Patron saint of Goa. Other well-known churches in Goa are the mary immaculate Conception Church (Panaji), the St Ana Church (Talaulim), Church of Our Lady of Miracles (Mapusa), Goa and Mae de Deus Church (Saligao).
Our Lady of Mary Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim
Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa
Se Cathedral, Old Goa
St. Francis of Assisi Church, Old Goa
St. Paul Church, Old Goa
The Three Kings Church, Reis Magos
Holy Spirit Church, Margao
Mae De Deus Church, Saligao
St. John of God Church and Convent
St. Monica Church and Convent
Our Lady of Rosary, Goa
St. Augustine Church, Old Goa
St. Anne Goa, Talaulim Goa
St. Cajetan Church, Goa
Like India, Goans are predominantly Hindus. Temples in Goa are an important part of its socio-cultural life. However centuries under the Portuguese rule played a major role in the destruction and displacement of many temples especially in the areas of the Old Conquests in the early years. One therefore finds the majority of Hindu Temples relocated in Ponda Taluka today.
The temples of Goa are in essence like most Hindu temples in India, based around a deity which is worshipped. The architecture of Goan temples is a little different mostly because of historical reasons.
The fundamental design of any Hindu temple is organized around the central shrine or the “Garbagriha” or the “sanctum sanctorum” that houses the main deity. A tower or “Shikara” arises from the main shrine and is traditionally pyramidal shaped. There are usually two or more smaller shrines housing other deities known as “Parivar Devatas” around the entrance to the Garbagriha. There is always a surrounding free area or a passage around the Garbagriha that is kept free for a an essential Puja ritual known as “Pradakshina” performed by almost every devotee. This is the ritualistic left sided circum-ambulation around the shrine usually an odd number of times.
The “Garbagriha” is accessed via a large hall with pillars and walls either carved with religious motifs or scenes from the mythology pertaining to the deity. This hall is usually known as the “Mandapa”.
The “Mandapa” opens to the outer courtyard or “Prakara” where usually a statue of a mythical animal or Vehicle of the deity is placed. There may also be a sacred plant the “Tulsi” or one of the sacred trees usually either a Pepul or a Banyan tree with some small artifacts or statues of more deities at its base.
The courtyard also might open into a large water tank or the side of a river or stream or “Tirthastan”. This is where devotees take their their ritualistic cleansing bath before entering the temple on festival or auspicious days. See some examples of “Tirthastan” , at some of Goa’s most famous temples below.
The courtyard sometimes also is common to the residence of the head priest and also other halls where devotees stay commonly known as “Dharmasalas” and sometimes perform ceremonies like marriages and thread ceremonies.
Sri Manguesh Temple, Goa
Shree Mhalasa Narayani Temple, Mardol
Mahalaxmi Temple, Panaji.
Sri Shantadurga Temple in kavalem, Goa
Sri Naguesh Temple, Goa
Shree Ramnathi Temple, Bandode
Sri Chandreshwar Temple, Goa
While in Goa your eyes can not escape the Portuguese connection the state holds close to its heart. When you have had enough of trance music and feni and you wish for some taste of history or if you are one of those genuine history seekers then Goa has much to offer. While in Goa you cannot miss out the forts that stand mute testimony to the state’s golden past.
And it’s not just history which makes Goan forts a delight. Rather it is also the sheer pleasure of trekking your way up to the fort and catch a golden sunset just in time, and also the vast expanse of Arabian sea, that’s the beauty of Goan Forts. Remember the scene of ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ where the three actors sit on the fort overlooking the sea? Well, that was ‘Chapora Fort’. The experience is even more magical then you realize.
The landscape of Goa especially the beachfronts are dotted with such architectures which narrate the strong engineering skills of thePortuguese. Though smaller than typical Indain forts, these were strongly built at strategic location to protect the land, generally on the mouth of rivers.
Cabo Raj Niwas Or The Cabo Palace, Goa
Teracol Fort in Goa
For most of the people heading towards Goa, it is one long beach. But once they are there they realize this folly of them. Goa is a state though a small one and there is a large number of beaches, many towns and a good network of roads. It is a state of seven rivers and their estuaries, there are hills with lush green vegetation, and most of the tourists are needed to cover large distances to move from one place to other. Goa has a total coastline of 125 km and that makes people believe that it is a long big beach however illusionary it is.
Beaches of Goa are much ahead of other beaches in India in terms of popularity and the facilities that are available here. The beaches here have been accepted as a matter of life, there are exotic cuisine backing the pleasure of have on sun and sand, and water sports facilities that include from water scooters to water gliding. To add on you can shake your legs for some time with a glass of feni and beer, engaged in shopping on the beachside, or have midnight bonfire on the beach.
There are some more aspects of Goa beaches that attract tourists every year. Whatsoever times you have visited these beaches they tend to change their look and get new designs every new season. These beaches refurbish themselves every new season and enhance the excitement of visitors who are never tired of appreciating Goa. Out of 125 km of coastline the beaches of Goa cover not less than 83 km and there is one for you also waiting to be explored. Go and find it!